JAY-Z & Meek Mill Have Joined Forces To Free Those Unjustly Held In Prison

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JAY-Z and Meek Mill, two Hip-Hop stars whose personal lives have faced criminal-justice issues head-on, are partnering on something with the potential to change millions of lives. Together with best-selling author and CNN news commentator Van Jones and others, the rappers announced the formation of REFORM Alliance, an organization which aims “to dramatically reduce the number of people who are unjustly under the control of the criminal justice system.”

As reported by Pitchfork, some of the inspiration for the creation of REFORM came from Meek Mill’s recent legal troubles. One year ago at this time, the Philadelphia rapper was incarcerated. In a statement, Meek Mill, who released Championships last November, said “If you thought my case was unfair, there are millions of others dealing with worse situations and caught up in the system without committing crimes. With this alliance, we want to change outdated laws, give people hope and reform a system that’s stacked against us…Creating the REFORM Alliance is one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life.”

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In April 2018, Meek was released from prison in Chester, Pennsylvania after serving approximately five months for violating parole (he was originally sentenced to serve two to four years). In the wake of his arrest, his legal team and fans came to the support of the 31-year-old Robert Rihmeek Williams and a #FreeMeekMill movement became popular on social media. His case took on particular importance because of the presiding judge’s allegedly unjustified ruling; the same judge (Genece Brinkley) was involved in Meek’s 2008 conviction and sentencing for charges of drug dealing and gun possession. In the years since, Meek has been incarcerated several times and has argued the corruption of police in his native Philadelphia, coupled with Judge Brinkley’s purported bias against him, has made him a victim of a predatory criminal-justice system.

Shortly after his release, Meek was the subject of a special episode of Dateline. At the time, he made it clear that his experiences were not unique. “This is the same thing that thousands of minorities are going through on a daily basis…They just don’t have [the] platform to have anybody speak on their behalf…now they do.”

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JAY-Z has also been an outspoken critic of the United States’ criminal-justice system and advocated its need for improvements. Recently, the Brooklyn MC has taken to historic, traditional media outlets to help bring the issue of criminal-justice reform to mainstream America, though his music has been doing similar work for decades. In 2016, he collaborated with the New York Times on a video essay analyzing the racist workings of the so-called “War on Drugs.” “Even though White people used and sold crack more than Black people, somehow it was Black people who went to prison,” he said at the time.

Jigga again partnered with the Times, this time penning an open letter in 2017 about the criminal-justice system’s propensity to “stalk” Black people. That open letter was inspired by the November 2017 sentencing of Meek Mill; in the letter, he wrote, “For about a decade, [Meek Mill has] been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside.”

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Through all of the turmoil, JAY-Z and Meek Mill are bringing to fruition their shared goal of using a platform for progress. At the official website for the REFORM Alliance, visitors can sign up to “join the alliance.” By filling out the form on the landing page, one will receive updates as the organization continues to implement its objectives in the real world. Together, the two may bring forth policy-based answers to the question, “What’s Free?”

In addition to Jay, Meek and Van Jones, founding partners of REFORM include  Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin; Kraft Group CEO and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; Brooklyn Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai; Third Point LLC founder Daniel S. Loeb; Galaxy Digital founder Michael E. Novogratz; and Vista Equity Partners founder Robert F. Smith.

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Several JAY-Z performances, including a 1993 display with Busta Rhymes and Biz Markie, along with video feature are available at AFH TV.

#BonusBeat: The latest episode of Justin “The Company Man” Hunte’s TBD examines the relationship and overlapping interests between JAY-Z and Meek Mill: